Masked killers, vengeful friends, small-town drama, ancient family secrets, the brand new (yet strangely welcomed) kid in town—it doesn’t matter what exact format it comes in, we recognize it all the same. Teen horror isn’t an “official” genre, but no doubt when you look at those two words together something comes to mind.
While classic films like “Scream,” “Ginger Snaps,” and “Carrie,” are often what people think of when “teenage horror” is uttered, they’re not the most recent incarnations nor the most accurate examples to what teen horror has become. These days, teen horror has spread a lot further than supernaturally tormented teenagers or a quick slasher flick.
It has gained a new form in television shows like “MTV Scream,” “Scream Queens,” and “Pretty Little Liars.” These shows are good. They entertain and they live up to their purpose and there are always guidelines. Like Emma Duval living up to her final girl predecessor in the “Scream” franchise or the comedic “Scream Queens” running from their chainsaw-bearing slasher. Those make sense, they’re created to be in the horror genre. Yet, some some things go askew, like the the never-ending spiral of seasons that “Pretty Little Liars” got caught in; there was no reason for a show to continue that long and yet, they were provided with enough views to give them reason to go on.
That’s the unnerving aspect that’s swimming just underneath the surface, the want or desire to keep these going for so long. It’s not entirely wrong, one main purpose of horror has always been the promise that something terrifying is going to take place on screen, something that gets your adrenaline pumping, something that makes you want to yell, but it grows dangerous (or at least, I think it does) when horror seeps into places uncharted.
This television show on the CW has gained a lot of popularity since it’s been released last year, in January 2017 and it’s not a bad show. It’s got 87% on Rotten Tomatoes and on Ranker’s “The Best Teen TV Shows Since 2015” list, it’s #1 above shows like Stranger Things (a facet of horror that involves even younger children, might I just say) and 13 Reasons Why; since Ranker’s lists can change, I’ll insert a screenshot just to let you all know I’m not bluffing.
The problem with this series is that it’s origins are the exact opposite of what it has grown to be and the aggravating part is that it isn’t a problem as much as it is the evidence for this obsession. In Riverdale, Archie Andrews, Betty Cooper, Veronica Lodge, and Jughead Jones are all teenagers trying to survive the town drama on a day to day basis. This drama tends to involve Cheryl Blossom’s dead brother or Veronica’s mob boss father or Betty’s “dark side” (which seems like a form of mental illness that should have been acknowledged and could have easily been explained but gosh, I guess that was thrown out the window) or. . .the Black Hood. The inclusion of the Black Hood seemed to be the moment where Riverdale went from gritty, dark teen drama to full-fledged teen horror. The plot line was interesting and again, entertaining, but it seems that the show could have gone without it, since he was taken down so quickly. Yes, he was there for awhile but in terms of horror, getting taken down within a season is extremely quick (which is why I think he’ll be back, but that’s a discussion for another article).
And that’s why it seems that we’re obsessed with teen horror. What was a main motivator for putting the Black Hood into Riverdale? Furthering the story? Traumatizing Archie? It wasn’t a bad move, the popularity proves that, but as far as teen horror goes, it’s a move that proves this concept. Just type up “classic archie comics” and “riverdale” into the Google Images search bar and see what pops up; even the color palettes are whiplash inducing. This new incarnation of these beloved characters isn’t boring or irritating, but it’s unexpected. This entire show is not something that a lot of people could have guessed in the beginning, because it doesn’t fit the original at all and the inspiration behind it is obvious.
We just crave teenage suffering in some way shape or form, but why? Teenage dramas have it too, but why is horror popping up like this? It could be a form of catharsis, it could be teenagers enjoying a representation of themselves on screen in these dire situations (like the majority of people who watched the teen horror flicks in the 90s and backwards), it could be the horror genre gaining popularity which then causes it’s fans to gravitate towards the shows that include it (which is not the reason why I started watching, but definitely one of the reasons why I stayed). “Riverdale” isn’t a perfect show, it has a lot of problems from plot to morals, but for some reason, people are watching it and they’re watching the teen horror that’s blatantly a part of it and they’re watching it knowing that it’s origin is in no way similar.
And there’s something there that says something about Hollywood and us.
These shows are part of the teen horror obsession and even though Riverdale is the talk of the town at the moment, again, it isn’t the only one. Stranger Things is sci-fi and involves mainly kids, not teens, but it’s very scary at times; scary enough to terrify grown adults. Scream Queens got cancelled, but MTV Scream is getting a reboot after it’s first storyline (which was also a reboot) died out. There hasn’t been much information about it, this article is the most recent that could be found, but there were plans to make it and it went into production. That’s an effort to continue teen horror. It’s not a bad move, especially to producers who see that it’s making money, but what does it say?
Coming from an avid horror fan, why is teen horror seeping into places it’s never been before (a vibrantly colored, happy go lucky teen comic)? Why has it transformed into 60 minute episodes aired weekly? There’s a lot there, but this article can’t go on forever, so go ahead and start analyzing; let's see if we come to a similar conclusion.
After the initial high you get from pulling up to your new house and catching up with all your housemates, you settle down with a beer on your porch and fantasize about how you and your boys are about to take over this school year. Now that you are considered upperclassmen, you have acquired that “older man” mystique that makes groups of giggling freshman girls whisper while you walk by. You feel like a motherfucking king.
But once that first day of class comes around, you quickly see your fantasy crumble as you read the pages of your first thick ass syllabus. Assignment one, assignment two, quiz, test, essay… the nightmare continues. You go to the student center to print out the rest of your class schedule and then it dawns on you. You have a grueling semester ahead.
Now that school is in full swing, the only thing worse than actually having to go to class is having a shit ton of homework to do once you get home. Good thing we have the perfect playlist for you to bang out those assignments. So stop crying over the thought of possibly missing the kegger Thursday night. Grab your headphones, shut the door and press play. This is the playlist that will put your social life back on the map. Homework never seemed so easy.
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